ID: OOD_016 / Edwin Sparrow

TitleJohn Charles Farthing - Engineer on MV GOLDEN GRAIN
AbstractWW2 Memorial Profiles for West Mersea

Engineer Officer
Merchant Navy MV GOLDEN GRAIN (Harwich)
Died 19 August 1941 age 52.
Commemorated on Tower Hill Memorial to the men of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets.

John Charles Farthing Junior was born c1888, son of George and Winifred Farthing. George was horseman on a farm, 'near Bower Hall'. John married Hilda Simons in 1915. In 1919 he appears in the Absent Voter List as Engineer, mv MILLER, living Reymead Cottages, but by 1931 John and Hilda are 'near Blue Row' - they were still there in 1939.

In the book issued by Marriages in 1940 to celebrate their Centenary, John is shown as having served the company for over 25 years.

Throughout the war shipping plying the East coast routes was very vulnerable. They faced E-boats, destroyers and submarines, as well as being attacked regularly by aircraft based a few miles away in Northern France and the Low Countries. Amongst those at high risk were the small motor vessels & sailing barges, as they were too slow to travel in convoys. Consequently, they travelled independently & unprotected. Although the motor vessels had been degaussed to protect against magnetic mines, they were still at risk to acoustic mines, as they moved very slowly along the shallow inshore route on chugging motors.



E. Marriage & Son were flour millers, who had been operating on the East Coast for a hundred years in 1940. They owned 2 motor vessels; MV GOLDEN GRAIN and MV THE MILLER, both built in the early 1930s. Sidney was the Master of the THE MILLER at the start of the War.

In the early hours of the 13th June 1940, a Handley Page Hampden bomber of no 144 Squadron from R.A.F. Hemswell, near Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, struck the cable of one of the barrage balloons and crashed into East Anglia Mills at Felixstowe with disastrous consequences. The 3 members of the bomber crew & a mill employee were killed. The silo house and part of the mill were badly damaged and the mill had to suspend operation for a period of 2 years. Burning fuel from the bomber's fuel tanks was sprayed over the sailing barges PHOENICIAN and RAYBEL and over Marriages' own motor barges GOLDEN GRAIN & THE MILLER, which were all lying at the North Quay. The Master of the Golden Grain, Ernest Parker was burnt by the blazing fuel.

In September 1940, the Ministry of Shipping requisitioned THE MILLER and she was delivered to Sheerness. At this point, Captain Parker, who was aged 62 took a shore job at the mill, as did his son, Cyril, who had been ship's engineer on the GOLDEN GRAIN Grain. he went to work at Paxman's Britannia Works testing Landing Craft engines. On the 22nd September 1940, Sidney Mallett took over as Master of M.V. GOLDEN GRAIN and THE MILLER's former Engineer, John Farthing became her Engineering Officer, while the GOLDEN GRAIN's former Mate, Albert Keeble continued on board.


MV GOLDEN GRAIN. Albert Keeble the Mate is just behind the mast

On the 19th August 1941, while on voyage to the Thames, the GOLDEN GRAIN hit an acoustic mine off Foulness Island close to the Maplin Split. All 3 of the crew were lost.

Sidney Mallett was born and lived as a teenager in Great Wigborough before going to sea. He was the husband of E.F. Mallett, of Rowhedge, Essex.

John Charles Farthing, the Engineer Officer was aged: 52 In the 1901 Census, he is shown as a 13 year old born & living in West Mersea, working as a Straw Binder. In the book issued by Marriages in 1940 to celebrate their Centenary, John is shown as having served the company for over 25 years.

Alfred Edmund Keeble, the Mate was aged 40 He was the son of Alfred and Lilian Keeble; and husband of D.A. Keeble, of Tollesbury.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 52.


Tower Hill Memorial

Tower Hill Memorial (c) CWGC

Read More:
Sidney Mallett
Albert Keeble

AuthorEdwin Sparrow
SourceMersea Museum